The local community’s politicians are up in arms at the Royal Bank of Scotland’s plans to close the last bank in Newtongrange.
The Main Street branch will close on November 3, with the bank that was bailed out by tax payers in 2009 setting out plans to provide mobile banking for customers affected by the closure.
Newtongrange Community Council’s chairman Jason Ferry believes it is yet another blow to the area.
He said: “I think it’s a huge loss. It’s the only bank in the village and really it’s a further decline of the amenities that we have here.
“We have lost our social clubs, we have gone from two to one post office and now we are losing the bank.
“It’s a real indication of the decline of rural communities, at a time when we are told that the area is prospering due to the railway’s return.
“What’s more hard to stomach is that RBS released its profits last week of £293 million. Plus this bank had to be bailed out by the tax payers due to mis-management .
“They said they will offer some services though the post office but it’s not the same.
“There is no bank in Mayfield and just one in Gorebridge. So Midlothian South just has the one bank.
“They said we can go into Dalkeith but obviously it’s not that easy for some to get there.
“A lot of organisations use the branch. For example our community council, the Dean Tavern and others.
“I personally bank there because of the ease of going there. I recently switched from a Dalkeith bank because it serves the local community well and it’s a really friendly branch. And local people are employed there. The current staff are from the local area.”
Mr Ferry is ready to take action:“I fully expect that we as a community council will be taking this up on behalf of the people of Newtongrange.
“I can see this being a real issue for people here. We will certainly be debating this at our next meeting.”
In a joint statement both the MP and the SNP-led council have called on the bank to rethink its decision, which they feel will have a substantial negative impact on both the residents of Newtongrange and surrounding areas, as well as other local businesses.
Newtongrange councillor Catherine Johnstone (SNP), Midlothian Council leader, said: “Newtongrange is now paying the price for a bank which took reckless decisions and none of the responsibility, being bailed out by the taxpayer and now risking the local economy of the village – a bank is an essential part of a local community.”
Owen Thompson, MP for Midlothian said: “The bank’s customers are the lifeblood of RBS and it’s them that are now paying the price of mistakes made elsewhere.
“It is a disgrace this branch is being sacrificed, it is disruptive to the community, businesses and the banks staff. I strongly oppose this closure and I have written to RBS to ask them to reconsider this decision in the strongest possible terms.”
The government paid £45.5 billion to bail out the bank in 2009, ending up with an 81% ownership stake. One of its CEOs, Fred Goodwin, was stripped of his knighthood as a result.
Mr Thompson has also written to the Chancellor George Osbourne to express his disappointment at RBS’ decision and to highlight the bank’s abandonment of public duty to customers and communities.
In a letter to the Advertiser (see page 14) RBS said it was “working hard to ensure there are a number of alternative ways for people in the area to continue to bank with us”. Those include the retention of its ATM in the village, mobile banking and some services still being offered through the post office in Newtongrange.
The bank also said that the number of transactions taking place at Newtongrange branch has dropped by 16 per cent since 2011.